Needs and desire, continued

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Jan 27 17:33:51 MST 2000

Charles Brown wrote:
>Marx would probably say you don't really know your desires until
>your needs are first guaranteed. Humans are only truly free in the
>absense of need. Freedom is the mastery of necessity or fulfillment
>of needs. You only know your desires when you are thus free.

Doug comments: How do you know this?

CB: I admit, on this I am following Marx. But it makes sense to me.

Doug: When people find their basic "needs" fulfilled
- and these themselves are very plastic - do they want less or more?

CB: First on the plasticity of needs: the idea of "need" is to refer to
something that is relatively unplastic. It is a necessity, it is a limit
which we must live such as enough food not to starve. "Want" or "desire" is
intended to refer to those things which are 'plastic". "Need" is intended to
refer to more rigid requirements.

Needs do evolve historically with the mode of production. For example,
transportation to work like a car is more of a necessity in our age and
yet it didn't even exist in most of the past. New needs are created in the
history of development of the modes of production. New needs or relatively
requirements are created in the history of meeting old needs.

On the wanting less or more, it is not just quantity, but quality with desire.
But besides that, as I said, in communism, it must be presumed every
will develop their desires  consciously  and deliberately and tuned to the
capacity of society and the individual to fulfill the desire, and the
adjustes more or less according to that.  I can eat ice cream all day , as
as there is enough milk ingredients and I do my chores, and I am mature enough
to accept that. But as my needs will be guranteed , I should have MORE time to
pursue desires, because I don't have to worry about meeting my needs, the
average workday is very short because of advanced technology etc.

Doug: Is the Lacanian trinity need/demand/desire - which begins with a
child making an unfulfillable demand on a caregiver, leaving a
perpetually unsatisfied residue of desire (or, in Freud's famous
formulation, there's no satisfaction in satisfaction) - just a
historical oddity of capitalism that will disappear on the attainment
of the ineffable quasimystical state of Communism (which sounds like
a formulation full of desire to me)?

CB:  The idea is that you are guaranteed those things needed for physical
survival; and it is in that state that humans most optimally know and can
fulfill their desires. It is not that every conceivable desire or every single
desire or fantasy that might occur to a child or adult will be fulfilled, but
that certainly more of them will be.

What will disappear from capitalism and all CLASS SOCIETY  ( this is the
end not
just of capitalism) will be unmet needs and the anxiety and alienation that
have from working and yet not being guaranteed by that work that your basic
needs will be met. The feelgood aspect of Communism will not be mystical , but
material: All basic , material needs will be guaranteed to the full extent
society is capable. This is not the equivalent of dying and going to heaven.
There will be new challenges, but there will be the end of the challenge,
to class society, of working and yet not being guaranteed life. There will be
the right to life, (not the distorted male supremacist U.S. meaning of
this, but
the international sense, right to a living). Or said better, it will not be
organization of society, as with class society, that denies the guarantee of
life. There will be other contradictions that challenge the guarantee to life,
but society will do its maximum to guaran!
tee life for all, unlike class society.

When I say other contradictions that challenge life, I mean a hurricane or
natural challenges; the sun will eventually burnout, which will create a whole
new "challenge".   There remains an ever evolving contradiction between nature
and human society , that humanity eternally seeks to unravel.


Louis Proyect
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